In­done­sia drags its feet on Asean haze treaty


the dev­as­tat­ing Asian Fi­nan­cial Cri­sis. The tim­ing meant coun­tries in the re­gion strug­gled to cope with this dis­as­ter. In 1998, Sin­ga­pore’s then­min­is­ter for en­vi­ron­ment and health, Mr Yeo Cheow Tong, said: “A re­peat of this dis­as­ter will surely ag­gra­vate the al­ready bad re­gional eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion.”

For­est and land fires in In­done­sia were lead­ing fac­tors why Asean coun­tries forged the haze agree­ment. Dur­ing the min­is­te­rial meet­ing in Ban­dar Seri Be­gawan, Brunei, in April 1998, Asean mem­bers blamed In­done­sia for its land-clear­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Hence, the 1997-1998 fires prompted Asean coun­tries to try to over­come the eco­nomic and health im­pact of the haze cri­sis to­gether.


It took 11 years af­ter the treaty came into force for In­done­sia to rat­ify the agree­ment in 2014. But, two years in, In­done­sia has yet to en­act reg­u­la­tions at the na­tional and lo­cal lev­els.

Ar­ti­cle 11 of the haze agree­ment obliged state par­ties, among oth­ers, to “en­sure that ap­pro­pri­ate leg­isla­tive, ad­min­is­tra­tive and fi­nan­cial mea­sures are taken to mo­bilise equip­ment, ma­te­ri­als, hu­man and fi­nan­cial re­sources re­quired to re­spond to and mit­i­gate the im­pact of land and/or for­est fires and haze pol­lu­tion aris­ing from such fires”.

Dur­ing a closed in­ter­view with an expert staff mem­ber of the Leg­isla-

Dio herdi­awan tob­ing is a re­search as­so­ciate at the asean stud­ies Cen­ter, uni­ver­si­tas gad­jah Mada, in Yo­gyakarta. tion Com­mit­tee at In­done­sia’s House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives (who re­quested anonymity), she ad­mit­ted that the House still views ad­di­tional reg­u­la­tions at the na­tional and lo­cal level as un­nec­es­sary.

Law­mak­ers be­lieve that na­tional laws, such as the 2014 Law on Plan­ta­tions and the 2009 Law on En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion and Man­age­ment, were ad­e­quate, she said.

These laws do share the spirit of Asean’s zero-burn­ing pol­icy. The Asean haze treaty has a pro­vi­sion urg­ing par­ties to pre­vent land-clear­ing us­ing fire. The In­done­sian laws men­tioned above also pro­hibit land-clear­ing by burn­ing.

But none of In­done­sia’s na­tional laws make spe­cial ref­er­ence to haze or pol­lu­tion re­sult­ing from slash-and­burn ac­tiv­i­ties.

In­done­sia does not cat­e­gorise the spread of haze from for­est burn­ing as a dis­as­ter. For In­done­sia, haze is a re­sult of for­est burn­ing, es­pe­cially when it is man-made. Not cat­e­goris­ing haze as a dis­as­ter pre­vents the coun­try’s na­tional and lo­cal dis­as­ter agen­cies from re­spond­ing ac­cord­ingly.

To im­ple­ment the haze treaty, In­done­sia could, for in­stance, leg­is­late to ex­pand the author­ity of the coun­try’s Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Agency and lo­cal dis­as­ter man­age­ment agen­cies at the pro­vin­cial level to carry out ac­tiv­i­ties to pre­vent and mit­i­gate any trans­bound­ary haze cri­sis.

Cur­rently, their man­date is lim­ited to emer­gency pre­pared­ness. The lo­cal dis­as­ter-re­lief fund can be used only when the haze reaches “emer­gency standby” status. As a re­sult, na­tional and lo­cal dis­as­ter agen­cies can­not pre­vent and mit­i­gate haze. They can only start work once there are fires and haze.

Within the In­done­sian gov­ern­ment, prob­lems of com­mit­ment and co­or­di­na­tion among agen­cies at the cen­tral and lo­cal level per­sist.

The Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and Forestry — the gov­ern­ment body re­spon­si­ble for tack­ling threats to the en­vi­ron­ment — does not seem in­ter­ested in en­forc­ing the Asean haze agree­ment. It is more fo­cused on “pro­ject-based” ac­tion, such as dis­tribut­ing fire­fight­ing pumps to the com­mu­nity.

It was the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, in charge of in­ter­na­tional agree­ments, that ac­tively sup­ported In­done­sia’s rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the haze treaty.

As a con­se­quence of the dis­cord be­tween the two min­istries, two years into In­done­sia’s rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the agree­ment, lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tions are still not aware of it.

If In­done­sia main­tains its non­com­pli­ant be­hav­iour, the re­gional com­mu­nity will con­tinue to blame it for South-east Asia’s haze prob­lems. Pre­vi­ously, In­done­sia’s non-rat­i­fi­ca­tion de­layed the es­tab­lish­ment of the Asean Co­or­di­nat­ing Cen­tre for Haze.

Asean has set a goal of a haze-free re­gion by 2020. It may not achieve that goal if In­done­sia does not catch up.

As a more gen­eral and long-term ef­fect, In­done­sia will lose its “nat­u­ral lead­er­ship” po­si­tion in Asean, as one of the bloc’s founders and the largest econ­omy in South-east Asia.

It is im­por­tant to have a united ap­proach be­tween dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment agen­cies for In­done­sia to com­ply with the agree­ment.

Lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tions through­out In­done­sia should be in­formed about the pol­icy. It is the only way can we en­sure poli­cies are syn­chro­nised and im­ple­mented ef­fec­tively at na­tional and lo­cal lev­els. THE CON­VER­SA­TION

Photo: ReuteRs

In Kal­i­man­tan, Su­ma­tra and Pa­pua in In­done­sia, slash-and-burn meth­ods are still com­monly used to clear land for the ex­pan­sion of oil-palm plan­ta­tions. Palm oil is In­done­sia’s top ex­port.

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